I was lucky enough to catch the musical during its sadly shortened run in London in 2007. I found the show tremendous good fun, but then I was a massive fan of the early series of the TV series, on which the musical is based. Unfortunately, the musical, debuting in London some six years after the culmination of its storylines were depicted on-screen to millions of viewers, could not find a sufficient audience in the West End. On the bright side, fans can sit back and enjoy this CD which contains all of the songs in the London staging of the musical (one song featured in the West Yorkshire Playhouse production, "P-P-P-Please", was cut in the London version).
The songs are mostly entertaining. "I Shouldn't Be Here" is a strong opening track, with some good lines - listen out for Crystal's justification for her tendency to shoplift! "Guardian Angel" also is amusing, particularly Shell and Denny's advice on why Rachel shouldn't linger in the shower... "All Banged Up" is genuinely hilarious, although this song does sit uneasily with "The Key" and its aftermath.
Other songs don't work so well. "Sorry" is an attempt to show the more difficult side of prison life, particularly in the context of a mother missing her son, but it doesn't fit into the main narrative very well and in the stage production it was possible to feel the loss of momentum it induced. "Freedom Road" features a standout performance from former Fame Academy contestant Camilla Beeput (who has the best raw voice of all the cast), but again, whilst it is a great vocal and does note what has happened to one character, it doesn't move the story forward.
The production did not need both "Jailcraft" and "Future is Bright", both duets between prison officer Jim Fenner (David Burt) and his sidekick Sylvia Hollamby (played, as on television, by Helen Fraser, though "Bodybag" is a considerably nastier piece of work here than on-screen!). Some of the time used for these similar efforts could have been better spent on another song, perhaps one more about the reality of prison life and the dynamics between officers and prisoners e.g. the cut "P-P-P-Please".
In "The Key", Fenner suggests he does not employ force or coercion in his, er... "interaction" with the prisoners, and then contradicts himself in the next scene (this scene included as a spoken scene at the end of "The Key" in this CD). "One Moment" is powerfully sung by Caroline Head as Nikki Wade and has some good lyrics but then on the other hand, some questionable if not meaningless ones e.g. "The great and good divide / Truth will decide", "When all the birds have flown / You're on your own." On-stage, it also suffered from the same fate as "Future is Bright" in that it is a long song which has its sentiments nearly entirely cancelled out by the content of the immediately-following scene. Whilst you can't hear this on the CD, you can hear how many songs express an apparent status quo rather than actually moving the story along, and the musical suffers because the songs are not used as part of the story. The only songs that are used to further the narrative are "The Baddest and the Best" and arguably "Every Night."
But more positively, "A List" is a fun track with Sally Dexter clearly enjoying every minute and giving tremendous entertainment value as a glamorous, self-assured Yvonne Atkins. "Every Night" is the strongest track on the CD and is notable for being a love duet between two women, though as staged, they're not conscious of each other's sentiments, with wing governor Helen Stewart (Laura Rogers, who has a lovely voice) at home in her flat and Nikki Wade banged up in her prison cell for the evening.
Overall, I enjoyed the stage production of "Bad Girls: The Musical" and I find this CD a lot of fun. In reality, it isn't for everyone; musical theatre lovers could probably make more criticisms of the songs than I have above, and the subject matter may mean that the musical has less broad appeal than other West End productions. But this show deserved better than to close so early in London, and it deserves a wider audience than it received.
As a final note, for those who pay attention to these things, "Bad Girls" does feature a positively-depicted lesbian love story, which makes it somewhat unusual, and perhaps of particular interest to some listeners.